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Special sitting concerning the application by Myanmar of the Forced Labour 
Convention, 1930 (No. 29), in application of the resolution adopted by the 
International Labour Conference at its 88th (2000) Session International 
Labour Conference

Provisional Record 19 PART THREE Eighty-ninth Session, Geneva, 2001


THE GOVERNMENT MEMBER OF SOUTH AFRICA emphasized it had long been his 
country's conviction that the existing situation in Myanmar could only 
change with the coming into play of new elements on the basis of an 
objective assessment carried out by the ILO. His Government had also 
indicated its unambiguous and unwavering support for the maintenance of 
action against the Government of Myanmar as long as it showed no 
willingness to change its position on forced labour. He was therefore 
heartened by the report before the Committee, which showed some positive 
gestures towards the achievement of the objective of eradicating forced 
labour in Myanmar. The report of the mission led by the Representative of 
the Director-General was quite encouraging and he commended the parties on 
their vision in resolving the matter.

The speaker urged the Office to remain vigilant and support the dispatch of 
the High-Level Team, which should be allowed  complete discretion as to its 
activities during its work. He urged the Government of Myanmar to continue 
on its positive path, which he believed would lead to a conducive working 
environment for its people. He looked forward to examining the report of 
the High-Level Team in November.

THE WORKER MEMBER OF PAKISTAN recalled that the resolution adopted by the 
Conference the previous year under article 33 of the ILO Constitution was 
the result of a process which dated back to the 1960s. The Committee of 
Experts had already raised the issue of the use of forced labour in the 
country in 1964, 1966 and 1967. Following the ICFTU representation under 
article 24 of the Constitution in 1993, and the persistent attempts by the 
Government to deny the evidence of forced labour, the Commission of Inquiry 
had been set up in 1997. In its report, following a series of hearings in 
which the Government refused to participate, as well as refusing to let the 
Commission into the country, three areas had been addressed in which 
measures were required to achieve compliance with Convention No. 29: the 
amendment of the legislation in accordance with the Convention; the 
adoption of measures to stop the exaction of forced or compulsory labour in 
practice; and the imposition of penalties on those who had perpetrated the 
crimes. The time limit set by the Commission for compliance with the 
recommendations was 1 May 1999.

This historical review underlined the fact that the series of measures 
envisaged by the Conference the previous year were rooted very clearly in 
the  implementation of all three of the broad recommendations of the 
Commission of Inquiry. The resolution adopted in June 2000 had been the 
decisive factor in prompting the Government to enter into discussions with 
the NLD leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and to accept an ILO mission. 
However, until all the three areas had been irreversibly addressed with 
action to restore democracy and end forced labour, the measures envisaged 
in the resolution should be maintained and their implementation 
strengthened as a key instrument of pressure on the regime. He therefore 
commended the Director-General on the action taken and he hoped that the 
work of the ILO would bring relief to those who were suffering in the 
country. He urged the Government to implement the recommendations of the 
Commission of Inquiry in their letter and spirit and to give all due 
cooperation and support to the ILO.

THE GOVERNMENT MEMBER OF THE NETHERLANDS supported the statement made on 
behalf of the European Union. He added that since the decision taken by the 
Governing Body in November 2000 to give effect to the measures under the 
resolution adopted in accordance with article 33 of the ILO Constitution, 
his country had held tripartite consultations and reviewed its relations 
with the Government. Since its first response to the request for 
information from the Director-General, his country had taken further steps 
and had the intention of discouraging transactions relating to trade with 
and investment in the country. The Netherlands had taken note of  the 
agreement of the Government to receive an ILO High-Level Team and took a 
keen interest in the findings of the Team, which would be discussed by the 
Governing Body in November 2001. His country would continue to monitor 
carefully the forced labour situation and was convinced that, in the 
absence of a concrete and clear improvement in the situation, it was too 
early to exclude the possibility of further measures.

THE WORKER MEMBER OF JAPAN welcomed the understanding concluded between the 
ILO and the Government in May 2001 concerning the visit of the High-Level 
Team and urged both parties to implement it with sincerity. He expressed 
the hope that all forms of forced and compulsory labour would be eliminated 
in the country as soon as possible in both law and practice. However, he 
noted information that the military regime had threatened villagers in 
several areas not to tell the truth about forced labour. He therefore urged 
the ILO and the Government to give the High-Level Team full authority to 
investigate the current situation. He hoped that the work of the High-Level 
Team would enable the international community to understand what was going 
on in the country. He appreciated the efforts made by the United Nations 
and Asian countries, including Japan, to restore dialogue between the ILO 
and the Government.

He emphasized that democratization was another important issue which was 
closely related to resolving the situation with regard to forced labour. 
Human rights and trade union rights were of great importance to democracy, 
but were incompatible with the military regime. The Japanese Trade Union 
Confederation (RENGO) supported the activities of those who had been 
compelled to leave Burma because of their participation in democratizing 
the country. A Burma office had been set up in Tokyo to promote democracy 
in Burma. He urged the Government to guarantee pro-democracy activities 
without any restrictions in the country. He also called upon the Government 
of Japan to put pressure on the Government to guarantee its people freedom 
from all kinds of oppression and for the restoration of democracy. An 
important meeting had been held in Tokyo earlier in the year on further 
trade union action on the question. It had been decided to implement a 
programme of action to promote and strengthen the ILO resolution and to 
request the Government of Japan to review its relations with the country. 
Trade union representatives had proposed that Japanese overseas development 
aid should be strictly limited to humanitarian purposes and used cautiously 
so as to ensure that it did not promote the use of forced labour. They had 
also called on the Government of Japan to request the Government not to use 
forced labour for the activities covered by Japanese overseas development 
aid and to accept an international group of inquiry to monitor its use.

He expressed deep concern about the resumption of Japanese overseas 
development aid to the country, which had been halted in 1988 after the 
takeover of the military regime, and especially the grant for the repair of 
the Baluchaung hydroelectric power station. The aid was still premature. 
Apart from humanitarian assistance, Japan should not provide aid that would 
benefit the military regime. The Japanese Government had a great 
responsibility for resolving the forced labour issue, as Japanese aid had 
amounted to 62.7  per cent of the total external aid to the country in 
1997. If the current situation with regard to forced labour was not 
improved, this assistance should immediately be stopped. If necessary, 
concrete action should be taken with the international community to 
eradicate all forms of forced and compulsory labour in the country.

THE GOVERNMENT MEMBER OF CANADA welcomed the recently signed understanding 
on the ILO's objective assessment, which was to focus on the practical 
implementation and actual impact of the framework of legislative, executive 
and administrative measures against forced labour which the Government had 
announced that it had taken since October 2000. He stated that unless this 
assessment suggested otherwise, existing ILO measures should remain in 
place and emphasized that the ILO alone could provide an assessment of 
sufficient authority to bear legal, political and practical consequences 

Given the vital standards at stake, he hoped that the Government of Burma 
would fully respect the agreed modalities and provide every guarantee that 
it would cooperate to ensure that the assessment was objective and 
credible. He emphasized that, to that end, the ILO's High-Level Team should 
be accorded complete discretion and freedom of movement in the organization 
and conduct of its programme of activities and meetings, as agreed in the 
understanding signed on 19 May 2000. He repeated his comments to the 
Governing Body in November 2000, namely that Canada had never sought a 
quarrel with the people of Burma, but sought an end to the abuse of their 
rights. He emphasized that forced labour amounted to indecent work which 
was unworthy of any ILO member State.

THE WORKER MEMBER OF COLOMBIA regretted that the members of the Committee 
were once again required to address the issue of Myanmar due to the 
Government's stubborn refusal to comply with ILO Conventions and 
Recommendations, to which was added the Government's inexplicable failure 
to comply with the resolutions adopted by the ILO.

He added that in 1997 Myanmar's unacceptable conduct had forced the 
Committee on the Application of Standards to place its comments in a 
special paragraph, given the Government's failure to effect any real 
change. He called for all workers to unite in the face of Myanmar's failure 
to submit to the ILO supervisory mechanisms and expressed his solidarity 
with the workers of Myanmar, especially in their struggle to achieve the 
observance of the ILO's fundamental Conventions and Recommendations, 
particularly Convention No. 29 on forced labour.

He stressed that under no circumstances could any government in any part of 
the world justify work performed under conditions of slavery and exacted 
through the use of force. He agreed with the Government of Myanmar that the 
best sanctions were those that were not applied. However, when a Government 
systematically refused to play by the established rules, implementing 
sanctions was the only method left, although no one liked to apply such 

Speaking on behalf of the workers of Latin America and the Caribbean, he 
once again urged the Government of Myanmar to comply fully with the 
provisions of ILO Conventions and Recommendations, beginning with 
Convention No. 29, thereby ending the suffering of those workers who were 
victims of forced labour. He also asked the Government to impose sanctions 
designed to make an example of those responsible for these violations of 
human rights.

He appealed to the Government of Myanmar to cooperate fully so that the ILO 
might carry out its work directly in the territory where the events had 
taken place. If the Government were truly convinced that its attitude and 
conduct were democratic, it should not have any reservations in agreeing to 
the ILO mission.

THE WORKER MEMBER OF ITALY, referring to the major problems and results 
relating to companies under paragraph 1( b) of the Conference resolution, 
said that the report to the Governing Body showed that few employers' 
organizations had replied to the Director General's request for 
information. Respondents included the Finnish Confederation of Industry, 
the Confederation of Norwegian Business and the Confederation of British 
Industry, as well as the International Organization of Employers. She 
appreciated the fact that many companies had ceased to do business in the 
country. However, major companies based in other countries were still 
importing goods produced in the country. There had been an explosion of 
clothing exports, including to the United States and the European Union, 
despite the ILO action which had been taken. Goods such as rice and beans 
were being exported by transshipment through countries such as Malaysia and 
Singapore. Before the last session of the Governing Body, the ICFTU had 
presented the ILO with a wide-ranging report indicating that many companies 
involved in the oil and gas, timber, rice, agriculture, fisheries, 
textiles, finance and tourism industries were still doing business with or 
in the country and had made other business contacts with the regime since 
November 2000. There were some 300 such companies from over 30  countries.

The ICFTU report also contained information on over 580 cases of forced 
labour. Some of the evidence of forced labour related directly to the 
operation of the gas pipeline linking Burma with Thailand, involving French 
and American multinationals, as well as the construction of tourist 
infrastructure, in which the country's military leaders appeared to be 
directly involved. A British-owned company was also heavily involved in gas 
pipeline operations in the country. Moreover, a hydroelectric plant would 
be built as a result of a 29 million dollar grant from the Japanese 
Government, as a reward for opening dialogue with the opposition leader Daw 
Aung San Suu Kyi. Some other governments and industries were hiding behind 
these apparently new developments to continue business as usual. In that 
respect, she recalled that similar talks in the past had yielded no results.

She said that a large share of the income generated by foreign investment 
was used by the Junta to buy weapons for use against its own people. China 
was one of the main arms suppliers. The ICFTU and the International Trade 
Secretariats had already planned action to place pressure on those 
companies, some of them multinationals, which had been identified in 
Canada, France, Malaysia, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, Spain and the 
United States. Trade unions in the energy industry, meeting recently in 
Bangkok, had called on oil and gas companies to cease investments in Burma 
while the use of forced labour continued. The trade union campaign had also 
started to target shareholders and institutional investors in some 
multinational enterprises investing in the country. One of the largest 
pension funds in the world had announced at its annual general meeting that 
it was proposing a resolution asking the company to withdraw from the 
country. In a case in the United States, a judge had stated the opinion 
that the company concerned by the lawsuit knew that forced labour was being 
utilized and that joint ventures benefited from the practice. In the past, 
governments and companies had hidden behind the absence of a global and 
binding decision to justify their inaction. Now there was a global decision 
by a United Nations body which gave them legitimate grounds to take action, 
as some of them had already done. She therefore urged employers' 
organizations and companies, in consultation with trade unions, to comply 
with the full provisions of the resolution. She also called on 
international and regional financial organizations to verify carefully the 
indirect projects and foreign direct investment in the country carried out 
through other countries and organizations. Any hesitation at this stage in 
implementing the agreed measures could jeopardize the efforts to eliminate 
forced labour and the resumption of talks for democracy.

THE GOVERNMENT MEMBER OF SWITZERLAND noted that she had listened 
attentively to the explanations given by the Government of Myanmar as well 
as to the opinions expressed by the Employer and Worker members.

She indicated that the report of the last mission to Myanmar had contained 
positive points. She added that the three-week evaluation mission, which 
would take place next September, should examine the effective and good 
faith application of the legislative amendments requested. It was important 
that this mission have complete freedom of action, particularly so that it 
could define its own programme. These recent developments were an important 
step toward a constructive commitment on the part of the Myanmar Government 
to respond to the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry. The Swiss 
Government therefore awaited with optimism the report that the mission 
would submit to the November 2001 Governing Body and would evaluate at that 
time the real political will of the Burmese authorities.

THE WORKER MEMBER OF SWAZILAND emphasized that forced labour was a very 
serious violation and flagrant disregard for humandignity and must not be 
forgiven for as long as it existed. Every effort to eradicate the evil of 
forced labour had to be supported by all advocates of humanity and social 
justice. The present case put to the test the fundamental obligation of the 
ILO and its mandate. The ILO needed to answer the question of what was the 
acceptable desired result of ratification. Was it merely the adoption of a 
statute that was in conformity with the obligations undertaken, or did it 
need to be applied in both law and practice? The ICFTU report had shown 
that forced labour was still prevalent on the ground. He affirmed that a 
law that only existed on the statute books, and was not applied in 
practice, was not worth the paper it was written on. Unless the Government 
accepted that it was out of line with the requirements of Convention 
No.  29, which it had ratified voluntarily 46 years ago, it would be 
impossible for it to correct the wrongs that it was committing. 
Nevertheless, as indicated in document D. 6, the Government had written to 
the United Nations Secretary-General condemning the decision of the 
Governing Body as a "grave injustice" and querying the mandate of the 
Director-General and the Conference on this issue.

He reaffirmed that the ratification of any international covenant by any 
government was a direct undertaking that it would enforce the covenant in 
law and in practice and that it would accept being monitored and questioned 
in the event that it violated the provisions of the covenant. Convention 
No. 29 was one of the core labour standards which, when applied, gave 
dignity to the worker. Without such dignity there could be no decent work. 
Moreover, forced labour constituted slavery and a crime against human 
dignity, and as such was incongruent with the dictates of social justice. 
The Committee was duty bound to uproot the evil of forced labour to restore 
dignity to the workers and people of the country. It should not therefore 
underestimate the gravity of this violation against humanity.

He said that governments which were prone to commit crimes against humanity 
did not readily desist from such practices without international pressure. 
If sanctions had not been applied against the apartheid regime in South 
Africa, its people would not have achieved democracy when they did. He 
therefore implored all countries to support social justice and maintain the 
sanctions until the people of Burma enjoyed an environment which was free 
of forced labour, guaranteed democracy and respected human and trade union 
rights and the rule of law. Only when the evaluation process by the ILO 
confirmed that Convention No. 29 was applied in law and practice could the 
sanctions be lifted.

THE WORKER MEMBER OF THAILAND indicated that in his country, there were 
more than 1 million illegal immigrants and nearly 20,000 refugees from 
Myanmar. These migrations had taken place over many years. The persons 
affected suffered from very bad social and economic conditions and had 
migrated to Thailand to escape poverty which resulted from both economic 
conditions and forced labour in Myanmar. These immigrants from Myanmar were 
vulnerable and were often badly exploited by their employers as they had no 
one to help them. At the same time, employers used the illegal immigrants 
to replace Thai workers who were facing difficulties in maintaining their 
working standards, especially in the area of occupational safety and 
health, and who demanded that ILO standards be respected. The political, 
economic and social condition of Thai workers was affected by these illegal 
immigrants and refugees who were the result of the political, economic and 
social conditions in Myanmar. Unless there was stability in that 
neighbouring country, Thailand would continue to face adverse consequences. 
Finally, the speaker welcomed the decision to send an ILO High-Level Team 
which would monitor the forced labour situation in Myanmar. He suggested 
that this Team visit the border between Thailand and Myanmar to gather 
information about the situation by talking to the refugees and the 
immigrants there. At the same time, he suggested that in accordance with 
article 33 of the ILO Constitution, the ILO resolution on Myanmar be kept 
in place until forced labour was totally eradicated in that country.

THE GOVERNMENT MEMBER OF NAMIBIA stated that his Government was deeply 
concerned and horrified by the continued instances of forced labour in some 
parts of the world and, in particular, the critical situation in Myanmar. 
While he welcomed the statement of commitment and the assurance made by the 
representative of the Government of Myanmar, he strongly urged it to match 
this undertaking with concrete steps. Furthermore, he unreservedly endorsed 
the proposal for the ILO to send a team of experts to Myanmar to fully 
investigate the situation as soon as practicable. It was his firm view that 
this matter should remain on the ILO agenda until the Government of Myanmar 
fully complied with Convention No. 29.

THE GOVERNMENT MEMBER OF INDIA stressed that her Government was strongly 
opposed to the practice of forced labour. Countries voluntarily adhering to 
the ILO Conventions should comply fully with them. In regard to the matter 
before the present Committee, her Government believed that the ILO's 
objectives could best be promoted through dialogue and cooperation and not 
through punitive measures or the threat of use of such measures. Her 
Government, therefore, advocated the path of constructive dialogue and 
cooperation between the ILO and the Government of Myanmar. The speaker also 
took note of an ILO mission to Myanmar the previous month, mentioned in 
document D. 7. She also took note of the information submitted by the 
Government of Myanmar in document D. 9 (information submitted in writing by 
the Government of Myanmar regarding the Memorandum on the understanding 
between the Myanmar Government and the ILO on the modalities of objective 
assessment on Myanmar's observance of ILO Convention No. 29 (prohibiting 
forced labour). The undertaking of an ILO objective assessment through the 
visit of a High-Level Team to Myanmar in September this year was a step in 
the right direction. The flexibility and constructive approach shown by the 
Government of Myanmar and the ILO were to be appreciated. This development 
underscored yet again the need to abnegate the punitive approach and to 
pursue the path of dialogue and technical cooperation.

THE WORKER MEMBER OF SWEDEN indicated that her intervention would be 
focused on the replies of the governments and UN agencies to the 200 
letters sent by the Director-General, asking them to act in accordance with 
the ILO resolution and to inform the ILO about specific measures taken. She 
was pleased to note that in some countries the political establishment was 
responding. On 22 May 2001, in the United States, Senators Tom Harkin and 
Jesse Helms introduced a Bill prohibiting all imports from Myanmar, 
specifically in response to the ILO's request. This Bill had bipartisan 
support in both Houses of Congress. In Norway, the Government was engaged 
in serious talks with groups in opposition to the Junta in order to divest 
its investments. At the same time, the speaker stressed that more should be 
done, and that pressure on the regime should be maintained by all. 
Disturbing events had taken place since the timid steps taken by the Junta. 
After the visit paid by the European Union Troika to Yangon at the end of 
January, the European Union had considerably slowed down its engagement in 
condemning the current situation in Myanmar. The European Union was 
apparently content with the mere hope that contacts would develop further, 
broadening as well as deepening, so as to promote national reconciliation, 
democracy and human rights. The speaker put into question the decision by 
the EU to grant a visa to a high representative of the Government enabling 
him to participate in an international forum last May in Brussels. What was 
most disturbing, however, was the situation regarding trade and 
investments. Myanmar's trade with both the United States and the European 
Union had soared recently, while the United States remained Myanmar's 
largest export market. In this respect, she indicated that the government 
export to the US grew by around 400 per cent after 1997 and by about 200 
per cent to Norway. Bilateral trade between Myanmar and the three northeast 
Asian countries (China, Japan and the Republic of Korea), totalled US$ 
187.69  million in the first two months of this year, a 36.3 per cent rise 
compared with the same period in 2000. China, which had border trade with 
Myanmar in addition to normal trade, stood as Myanmar's third largest 
trading partner after Thailand and Singapore, while Japan and the Republic 
of Korea remained Myanmar's fourth and fifth largest trading partners 
respectively. In particular, the speaker recalled the reported intention of 
the Government of Japan to provide a 3.53 billion yen grant for the repair 
of the Baluchaung Hydropower Station, a project in Karenni State, a region 
affected by the civil war in Myanmar for which forced labour would most 
likely be used, directly or indirectly. This was against the spirit of the 
adopted ILO resolution which needed to be implemented by all its member 
States, now more than ever.

THE GOVERNMENT MEMBER OF THE UNITED KINGDOM fully supported the statement 
made by the Government member of Sweden on behalf of the European Union. He 
recalled that the European Union had been unstinting in expressing its 
concern about the practice of forced labour in Burma and had been 
instrumental in pushing for steps to apply article 33 measures during the 
last International Labour Conference and the Governing Body in November. He 
therefore did not recognize the portrayal of the European Union position 
contained in the Swedish Worker member's statement. The crucial question 
before this Committee was not a technical issue relating to the 
bureaucratic processes adopted by the Burmese regime. It was for the 
Committee to decide how and when the morally abhorrent practice of forced 
labour in Burma could be ended. The visit of the High-Level Team to Burma 
in September would be a first step in the assessment process, although 
three weeks was a very short time to ascertain whether forced labour had 
diminished or stopped in Burma. He reiterated the importance of the 
High-Level Team being granted freedom of access to witnesses and stressed 
the importance of all interviews being conducted in conditions where the 
interests of witnesses could be protected. The High-Level Team should be 
able to visit all areas of the country, including difficult border areas 
such as Rakhine, Chin, Kayin, and Kayah. The High-Level Team should also be 
able to decide when was the most appropriate time to visit Burma and the 
Director-General should have full freedom in appointing members of the 
team. In that context he was attracted by the suggestion that members of 
the original Commission of Inquiry should participate in the team. One 
thing should be clear: if in November the High-Level Team was able to 
report that forced labour in Burma had ended, then article 33 measures 
would be lifted. If, however, the High-Level Team reported that forced 
labour still existed or that they had been impeded in carrying out their 
assessment, then the United Kingdom Government, like that of the 
Netherlands, would be forced to consider what further measures could be 
taken against the Burmese Government.

sentiments that the visit of the High-Level Team in September of this year 
was a step in the right direction. However, he did wish to raise certain 
issues. First of all, he wondered whether it would not be better for the 
High-Level Team to undertake this mission a little later when the monsoon 
season was over. Moreover, in order for the High-Level Team to do its work 
effectively and visit various regions of Myanmar during a three-week 
period, it might be preferable to appoint five members rather than three to 
this High-Level Team. In addition, a single visit of a three-week duration 
might prove insufficient to provide a clear and comprehensive picture of 
the situation regarding forced labour in the country. Hence, it would be 
necessary to ensure that follow-up visits were undertaken. Preferably, a 
permanent ILO presence in the country could well prove necessary to ensure 
that Myanmar remained free of forced labour. Another important aspect was 
the requirement of full cooperation from the Government of Myanmar in 
providing access for the High-Level Team to the border areas. A very 
important issue was that of the protection of witnesses. Those who were 
accused might seek reprisals. Indeed, the Worker members knew, and it had 
been reported by Amnesty International, that some 12 persons who had spoken 
to a UN envoy had subsequently been detained, tortured and given long 
prison sentences. Hence, it was the responsibility of all involved, 
including the Government of Myanmar, the Office, the High-Level Team, as 
well as governments who maintained a mission in the country to ensure that 
those who volunteered to give evidence were not subjected to reprisals. 
Finally, persons who were not part of the current Government, including 
members of the democratic opposition, should be involved in the work of the 
High-Level Team.

THE GOVERNMENT MEMBER OF JAPAN indicated that the Government of Myanmar had 
taken a variety of legislative and administrative measures to eradicate 
forced labour. While results at the level of implementation remained to be 
seen, he considered that a constructive approach with the Government of 
Myanmar was the only one that would solve the problem prevailing in that 
country. The ILO was to be commended for its cooperation with the 
Government of Myanmar. The Government of Japan was constantly in touch with 
Myanmar at several levels in order to remind it of the need to cooperate 
with the ILO. Finally, the speaker stressed that his Government's 
relationship with Myanmar, including in the form of development assistance, 
did not and would not in any way induce, directly or indirectly, forced 
labour in that country. In this regard, he emphasized that the assistance 
by the Japanese Government to repair the Baluchaung Hydropower Station was 
only intended to prevent, in the future, further harm to the general 
population by the deterioration of the said power plant. Regarding this 
assistance, he pointed out also that the Japanese Government took into 
account the solicitation made by the Special Representative of the United 
Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Razali.

THE GOVERNMENT MEMBER OF PORTUGAL endorsed the interventions made by the 
Government member of Sweden on behalf of the European Union and the 
Government member of the United Kingdom on the measures taken by the 
European Union with regard to putting to effect article 33 of the ILO 
Constitution. The Commission of Inquiry had recommended that a series of 
administrative, legislative and regulatory measures be taken so as to put 
an end to the practice of forced labour, and to ensure the application of 
Convention No. 29. The previous year, the Governing Body of the 
International Labour Organization had noted that such measures had not been 
taken and thereby for the first time referred to article 33 of the 
Constitution. That decision was taken in order to strengthen the role 
played by the ILO as well as enhance its credibility in the promotion of 
fundamental rights at work. In that context, there was reason to endorse 
the sending of a High-Level Team, even if the option of a continued 
presence in the country would have been better. A step forward could be 
made by the Team provided that three conditions were fulfilled: the mission 
should be free to move; it should have access to all requested places; and 
finally, the Director-General should be free to select its members. As a 
member of the Governing Body, Portugal expressed its specific wish to 
participate in a constructive tripartite discussion on that question at the 
next session of the Governing Body.

THE GOVERNMENT MEMBER OF BRAZIL reiterated his support for constructive 
dialogue and cooperation as the way to resolve the question of forced 
labour in Myanmar. He underlined the importance of the ILO presence on the 
ground as a way of ensuring the credibility and effectiveness of the 
legislative and administrative measures applied by the Government. He 
expressed his support for the visit by a High-Level Team to Myanmar which 
would allow an objective evaluation of the measures adopted. That 
evaluation would provide a sufficient basis for the Governing Body, at its 
November meeting, to be able to recommend in an impartial and objective 
manner the measures to be taken in the future. The representative of the 
Director-General indicated that he already had some clarifications on 
certain points raised. Regarding the participation and provision of 
information to actors other than the government authorities in the process 
which lead to the Memorandum of Understanding and the High-Level Team, he 
underlined that Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi had been informed of the content and 
importance of the Memorandum of Understanding. In this respect, she had 
expressed the wish to get in contact with the High-Level Team. Moreover, 
regarding the representatives of civil society, a list of NGOs present in 
Myanmar had already been established. Regarding the period during which the 
High-Level Team would visit Myanmar, the month of September had been chosen 
after taking into consideration the climatic conditions and the need to 
have adequate time to prepare a report for the November Governing Body. 
These considerations were of a practical nature and the exact date could be 
reexamined later on.

THE EMPLOYER MEMBERS recalled, at the end of a detailed and serious 
discussion, that their position, as clearly presented at the outset, was 
fully in line with the steps taken up to now by the various bodies of the 
ILO. It was their impression that there was today a rather uniform 
evaluation of many aspects of the case by different members of the 
Committee, which had expressed very cautious hope. The Government of 
Myanmar had made the first step in the right direction. However, the 
desired results had not yet begun to become reality. Great efforts were 
still required to overcome the difficulties, which included the size of the 
country, the long duration of forced labour practices, as well as the fact 
that over the years many authorities in Myanmar had become used to the 
practice of forced labour: in particular many civil and military 
authorities were beneficiaries of forced labour and this was a barrier to 
change. In view of these facts, the results sought were a difficult task 
and a challenge for all involved. The agreements so far reached did not yet 
guarantee anything: they contained promises and formal arrangements for 
addressing the problem. Without real goodwill nothing would succeed - not 
even an objective assessment of what was actually occurring in practice. 
Under these circumstances, it was necessary to stick without any 
modification to the decisions taken up to now by the ILO bodies. In this 
respect they could not support the Government of Myanmar's suggestion in 
the Memorandum on the understanding between the Myanmar Government and the 
ILO on the modalities of objective assessment on Myanmar's observance of 
ILO Convention No. 29 (document D. 9) to loosen the measures taken 
regarding Myanmar in application of article 33 of the Constitution. Up to 
now, all small steps announced stood on sheets of paper. But the 
Committee's objective here as with regard to all ILO standards was to shape 
social reality. Where could this be more necessary than with regard to 
human rights? Being optimists with experience - i. e., realists, the 
Employer members considered that further developments in this case should 
be followed soberly and critically, with hope for the people in Myanmar.

THE WORKER MEMBERS said that they had listened carefully to the various 
statements. Despite the information provided by the Government 
representative of Myanmar, the serious violations of Convention No. 29 
continued. The case under examination was extremely important because of 
the gravity of the violations and the continued systematic, not to say 
institutionalized, practice of forced labour. The Organization's objective 
remained to implement the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry. To 
that end, the Government must ensure that national legislation and practice 
were aligned with Convention No. 29 such that no forced or compulsory 
labour could be imposed by the authorities and that persons who infringed 
the prohibition on forced labour would be punished. The ILO was the only 
body which could objectively evaluate whether the recommendations had been 
implemented. The High-Level Team was a first step in that evaluation. The 
Worker members, however, considered that the composition and functioning of 
that Team should meet certain criteria. It should be composed of people 
with a high degree of expertise in the subject, including at least one of 
the members of the Commission of Inquiry and participation by the 
International Labour Standards Department. It should be big enough to cover 
the different regions of the country and the various types of forced labour 
which had been identified. It should have access to all the information, 
persons and places that it wished both inside and outside the country. It 
should have interpreters available. It should be guaranteed that witnesses 
would enjoy effective protection and it should be allowed to choose an 
appropriate period to undertake its mission. The Worker members were at 
pains to emphasize that the mission to be carried out by that Team should 
under no circumstances be regarded as the end but rather the beginning of a 
process. The Organization must pursue the examination of this case 
assiduously and undertake the objective evaluation of the implementation of 
the three recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry. Further missions 
would be necessary for that purpose. In conclusion, the Government 
representative who spoke on behalf of the European Union deserved support 
when he stated that the measures taken in application of article 33 of the 
Constitution could only be lifted if forced labour was genuinely abolished 
and the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry effectively implemented.

THE GOVERNMENT REPRESENTATIVE OF MYANMAR noted that a number of delegations 
of member States had expressed their appreciation concerning the agreement 
between his Government and the ILO on modalities of the ILO objective 
assessment. He expressed his gratitude to the ASEAN member States and the 
member States of the Asia/Pacific Region for their joint statement on the 
issue. With regard to the timing of the visit of the High-Level Team, the 
speaker recalled that the month of September had been chosen after taking 
into consideration the weather conditions. The monsoons would almost have 
stopped by then and the High-Level Team could undertake its visits without 
any problem. However, other dates were also possible such as the month of 
October as had been suggested. Regarding the size of the High-Level Team, 
nothing had yet been decided on this matter. However, he pointed out that 
the membership of the High-Level Team should not be too large. Furthermore, 
measures were already being taken with regard to implementation. In this 
respect the National Implementation Committee had formed five teams in 
April 2001 to ensure implementation. However, the application of legal 
texts required a certain amount of time which was why no immediate results 
could be observed. With regard to the protection of witnesses, these were 
fully protected by the existing provisions of the Penal Code. In this 
respect, the legal system of the country was inherited from the British 
legal system and was therefore very solid. Concerning freedom of movement 
of the members of the High-Level Team, they could have free access to all 
areas, including those where there were allegations of the use of forced 
labour. The only exception to this were those places where the security of 
the members of the High-Level Team would be under threat due to the ongoing 
activities of the armed insurgents. This issue was already reflected in the 
terms of the Agreement. The Government representative stressed that now was 
the time for confidence-building through the High-Level Team which would 
conduct an objective assessment mission in Myanmar this year. The 
Government of Myanmar was ready to cooperate with, and facilitate the work 
of the High-Level Team, in accordance with the agreement on the modalities 
of the objective assessment. He asked that the words of appreciation and 
positive comments made by speakers during the present sitting of the 
Committee be reflected in the closing remarks of the Chairperson. He also 
asked that the closing remarks reflect the opinion of member States that 
the 282nd Session of the Governing Body in November 2001 should review the 
measures taken against Myanmar under article 33 of the ILO Constitution in 
light of the outcome of the forthcoming visit of the High-Level Team, with 
a view to removing them.

THE WORKER MEMBERS, referring to their earlier statements, indicated that 
they had not been convinced by the Government's plea.

THE EMPLOYER MEMBERS recalled that their hopes, expectations and demands 
had been summed up in their earlier declarations; positive results were 
still awaited and could not be taken for granted.


The Committee held a special sitting on the application by Myanmar of the 
Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), further to the resolution adopted 
by the International Labour Conference at its 88th Session, concerning the 
application of article  33 of the Constitution. It noted the oral and 
written information submitted by the Government, and the discussion which 
followed. It recalled that this case had been discussed repeatedly in the 
Committee before the appointment of a Commission of Inquiry under article 
26 of the Constitution, and deplored the lack of progress towards the 
elimination of forced and compulsory labour. The Committee noted the 
results of the Director-General's appeals to the ILO constituents, 
including employers' and workers' organizations as well as governments, and 
other international organizations, to review their relations with the 
Government of Myanmar in order to ensure that the Government of Myanmar 
could not take advantage of relations with them to perpetuate or extend the 
system of forced or compulsory labour referred to by the Commission of 
Inquiry. It also noted that, according to information submitted to the 
Governing Body in March 2001 and to the Committee, forced and compulsory 
labour was still being imposed on the citizens of the country. The 
Committee recalled that the Commission of Inquiry had called upon the 
Government to halt all use of forced or compulsory labour, to amend its 
legislation to render the practice illegal, and to punish all those who 
imposed forced labour. The Committee noted that Order No. 1/ 99 as 
supplemented by the Order of 27 October 2000 was a relevant but 
insufficient basis for improving legislation. The conditions spelled out by 
the Committee of Experts should be applied in good faith, and further 
measures would be needed to ensure that this was in fact done. The 
Committee welcomed the Government's decision to resume cooperation with the 
ILO. In this regard, it noted with interest that a recent mission by 
representatives of the Director-General (1719 May 2001) had concluded an 
understanding for an objective assessment of the situation of forced labour 
following measures announced by the Government of Myanmar, and that the 
results of this objective assessment were to be brought before the 
Governing Body at its November 2001 session. It was pointed out that this 
was only a beginning, and the Committee called upon the Government once 
again to take all possible measures with the greatest urgency to eliminate 
forced and compulsory labour in all its forms, in following the 
recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry; to punish those responsible 
for imposing forced labour; and to give full cooperation to the High-Level 
Team which was to carry out the objective assessment referred to above. The 
Committee emphasized that, taking into account the discussion in the 
Committee, the High-Level Team should: (1) have sufficient authority to 
programme its activities; (2) have an appropriate composition which will 
allow the work to be distributed among its members; (3) be selected within 
the sole discretion of the Director-General; (4) be able to carry out its 
investigation in all the places in the country which it considered 
necessary to visit; and (5) have unrestricted access to all necessary 
sources of information. Those people who provided information to the Team 
must enjoy full protection. It was also noted that the United Nations 
Economic and Social Council had been asked to discuss the situation at its 
July 2001 session. The Committee requested the Governing Body to assess the 
report of the High-Level Team at its November  2001 session in order to 
consider what further steps were necessary to be taken at that time by the 
Government or by the ILO, and recalled that the Government should provide a 
detailed report to the Committee of Experts at its next session on all 
measures taken to ensure observance of the Convention in law and in practice.

THE GOVERNMENT REPRESENTATIVE OF MYANMAR asked that the closing remarks of 
the President reflect the positive comments regarding the agreement reached 
by the Government and the ILO on the modalities for the objective 
assessment which had been made by delegates, including a number of Workers' 
delegates. This would introduce better balance into the text. He suggested 
therefore that the sentence in the conclusions beginning with "In this 
regard, it noted with interest ..." read "In this regard, it noted with 
appreciation...". He also suggested that the phrase concerning Order No. 1/ 
99 reflect the original wording of the Committee of Experts which read that 
the Order "... could provide a statutory basis for ensuring compliance with 
the Convention in practice ..." [paragraph 7]. The experts, who are 
internationally recognized independent persons, had made an objective 
assessment in moderate language which should be retained.

In response to several questions, THE CHAIRMAN clarified that the phrase in 
the conclusions concerning Order No. 1/99 to which the Government 
representative referred, used different wording but did not modify the 
conclusions on the same subject in paragraph 7 of the Committee of Experts' 
observation, and was entirely compatible with the Experts' meaning. This 
clarification would figure in the report of the discussion in the 
Committee's report.

THE EMPLOYER MEMBERS proposed to insert a paragraph in the general part of 
the Committee's report to the Conference to indicate that the Committee had 
held a special sitting on the issue of forced labour in Myanmar. The 
proceedings of this sitting should be reproduced in a special Part Three of 
the report. The Worker members agreed with this proposal.


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